Farmingdale H.S. mourns loss of 2 members of school community following bus crash in Orange County
Two people were killed and at least five students were critically injured following a crash involving a bus filled with band members from Farmingdale High School on Thursday.
Officials say the bus careened off the road and tumbled 50 feet down an embankment on I-84 in Hudson Valley around 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Farmingdale Union Free School District says the bus was one of six buses that were en route to band camp in Pennsylvania when the crash occurred.
Officials have identified the two adults killed in the crash as Gina Pellettire, 43 of Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77 of Farmingdale.
Pellettire was Farmingdale High School’s band director and Ferrari was a teacher at the school for more than 26 years.
Pellettire was affectionately called “Miss P” by marching band members.
One parent says Miss P inspired her son to be a teacher.
“That’s a huge influence, and it’s not just my son – there’s so many children whose lives she touched in the community,” says Susan Perna.
Ferrari was known as the grandmother of the band. She retired but still served as a chaperone on trips.
Her family was too distraught to talk on camera but say Ferrari loved her students and always encouraged them to do their best.
“She was an angel here on Earth, she had a heart of gold, not only for her, but those around her,” said Linda Leone, a friend of Ferrari’s.
Victims hurt in the crash were taken to Westchester Medical Center, the sole Level One Trauma Center in the Hudson Valley.
Originally, three students with critical injuries were taken to the facility - one of six hospitals in the region attending to crash victims. Hospital officials now say 12 people are at the center, and the majority of victims are at the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.
The Farmingdale mayor says one girl who is a junior firefighter was airlifted to Cohen Children's Medical Center late Thursday from Westchester Medical Center. Another junior firefighter, who is a boy, was released from Westchester Medical Center this morning - he had severe lacerations.
VIDEO: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman gives an update on bus crash
The NTSB has a team at the scene to investigate the crash.
Farmingdale High School students, including members of the marching band, lit candles at a vigil Friday evening. They hugged and cried, still in shock over their band director and chaperone.
"It just shows how much they were loved and how much they loved their teachers," says Rose Golding, of Farmingdale. "It's a family - a family."
Dozens of the students' peers were injured, including four who are still listed in critical condition.
The district says counselors were being made available inside the school. Farmingdale school officials say they will also have counseling available for students and staff this weekend.
The other five buses that were also headed to camp returned to Farmingdale High School on Thursday night following the crash.
A statement from Farmingdale School District Superintendent Paul Defendini said, “I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support in the wake of this tragic incident. Daler Strong is alive and well right now, and we are working together to support our students and staff as we take the time to heal. The school district will be establishing a crisis center and Howitt Middle School this weekend for any staff, student, or community member who might need support.”